BOSTON – Patrice Bergeron warned that Pavel Datsyuk was famous for “pulling something out of his hat” if he eased up on defensive coverage of him, and the Bruins saw it firsthand in Game 1. Datsyuk scored a pretty sweet goal with 3:01 remaining in the third period. It was the game’s only goal after a scoreless first two periods, and left Boston tipping their hat to one of the game’s elite centers afterward.
Zdeno Chara, Dougie Hamilton, Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask were all on the ice at the time of the game, and quite simply Detroit’s best offensive player beat Boston’s best defenders with the game on the line.
“Eventually it came down to whoever was going to score that one goal,” said Chara. “You know, it was a lot of battle, the goalies were very good, and there were some chances on both sides. Eventually, it went for them. It’s going to be an even series.”
The play developed quickly as Milan Lucic very nearly redirected a Jarome Iginla shot past, but Jimmy Howard got just enough of the puck to send it skidding harmlessly away from the crease. Seconds later Datsyuk had picked up the puck in the neutral zone, turned on the jets going right to left in the offensive zone and fired a shot to the far side of the net as Justin Abdelkader crashed into both Hamilton and Chara.
“[Justin Abdelkader makes] a nice screen and I just shoot behind him,” said Datsyuk. “I don’t care about the shot. If that goes through every time, it’s fine…not a problem.”
The chaotic collision effectively screened Rask, who never really reacted to the Datsyuk shot until it had already passed by him.
“He was by himself there, and so I’m just thinking a shot,” said Rask, who made 23 saves in the loss. “He drags it across, and releases from his legs. You just try to get the puck in your eyes and I couldn’t. Usually he tries to make a pass, but I thought he was by himself there.
“One team has a chance and doesn’t score. Then the other team [has a shot] and just capitalizes on the second chance. But what can you do? You just got to battle back and try to get the next one.”
The goal marked the 37th of Datsyuk’s long and storied career in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Winged Wheels.
Just like that Datsyuk had claimed another victim in what’s been a long history of mystifying defenders and goaltenders with his magical skills with the puck. It will be a long series if the Bruins can’t find a way to contain the Russian sniper during those game-changing moments.
“It was just one play, and that’s the way it goes,” said Hamilton. “He made a pretty good play on the puck in the neutral zone to get the puck in the first place. It was 2-on-2 and I was trying to respect the guy going to the net. I tried to block the shot, but I couldn’t get to it.”
They’ve probably got another six games to figure it out given their history of pushing it to the overtime of Game 7 each of the last three years in the first round.